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François DIEUPART: "Suites de clavecin"

Héloïse Gaillard, recorder, oboe; Tami Troman, violin; Myriam Rignol, viola da gamba; Pierre Rinderknecht, theorbo; Marie van Rhijn, harpsichord

rec: Sept 13 - 14, 2020, Chaussy, Domaine de Villarceaux
Château de Versailles Spectacles - CVS060 (© 2022) (64'58")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Première Suite in A; Deuxième Suite in D; Quatrième Suite in e minor; Sixième Suite in f minor

Sources: 6 Suittes de Clavessin Divisées en Ouvertures, Allemandes, Courantes, Sarabandes, Gavottes, Menuets, Rondeaux & Gigues [...] composées et mises en concert ... pour un Violon & Flûte avec une Basse de Viole et un Archilut, 1701, 1702

François Dieupart was one of many composers who settled in London, which in the first half of the 18th century was one of the main musical centres in Europe. If one looks at New Grove for biographical information, one notices that neither the exact dates of his birth and death nor the place of his birth are known. Marie van Rhijn, in her liner-notes to the disc under review here, states that he was born in Paris in 1676. The track-list mentions 1751 as the year of his death. Van Rhijn also mentions that Dieupart settled in London in 1700. Again, this is left open in New Grove. Apparently more information has come to light since the article in New Grove was written.

Dieupart's oeuvre includes keyboard works, chamber music and songs. Little of his output is known, except the six suites which were published in Amsterdam in two versions: one for a melody instrument - to the discretion of the performer(s) - and basso continuo, and one for solo harpsichord. Apparently these editions were well received, as in 1705 a selection of thirteen pieces from the suites was printed in 1705 in London. There he was quite a busy man. For most of his years in London he actively participated in theatrical performances. He closely cooperated with the Italian-born cellist, composer and librettist Nicolo Francesco Haym, especially in performances in the Drury Lane Theatre. There he played continuo in Italian operas, such as Bononcini's Il trionfo di Camilla. He also composed theatre music, for instance for a pasticcio which was put together by the French-born librettist Peter Anthony Motteux. Dieupart was also one of the founders of the famous Academy of Ancient Music, together with the likes of Geminiani and Croft.

The six suites are unique in several ways. Dieupart was the first French composer to publish his harpsichord pieces under the title of suites. Such editions were usually printed as pièces de clavecin, and later Couperin presented them as ordres. Also notable is that every suite opens with an ouverture rather than a prélude. This is a clear reference to the operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully which were still very much the standard at the time Dieupart composed his suites. Whereas in French collections of harpsichord pieces the performer could pick and choose the pieces as he liked or the pieces were ordered according to key with a different number of movements, Dieupart's suites follow a fixed pattern. In every suite the overture is followed by six dances: allemande, courante, sarabande, gavotte, menuet and gigue. Only the Suite No. 2 derives from this pattern as the menuet is replaced by a passepied. This kind of suites was more common in Germany than in France, and there is general agreement that Bach was influenced by Dieupart's suites when he composed several collections of his own. It is known that he copied Dieupart's suites when he was employed at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar. Bach was not the only one who was interested in them. Copies of the set have been preserved across the continent.

It is noticeable that the harpsichord versions are seldom recorded. In 2015 Brilliant Classics released a set of two discs with a complete performance by Fernando Miguel Jalôto. In comparison there are more recordings of the versions for chamber ensemble, although they seem mostly not to be recorded complete. In my collection I have only recordings of single suites from the set. In 2014 the German label Carpe Diem released a recording of the Suites 1, 2, 3 and 6 (which I reviewed together with Jalôto's recording). The recorder player Corina Marti and her colleagues performed three of the suites with one instrument - or two, playing in turn or colla parte - and basso continuo; the sixth suite was performed as a harpsichord solo.

The present disc offers three of those suites as well, but then the fourth instead of the third. For those who own the Carpe Diem disc it may be a little disappointing that here we get almost the same stuff. However, the way the suites are played is rather different. They are played here in what is called a "mises en concert" version. This means that in each suite all the instruments participate, in different combinations. Some movements are performed as harpsichord solos, in others the oboe or the recorder takes the upper part, and there are also movements where all the instruments are involved. In some movements the line-up is changed in the process, or the proceedings start with one instrument, which is later joined by others. Marie van Rhijn also refers to François Couperin's proposal for the Concerts Royaux in his third book of Pieces de clavecin: "In the manner in which François Couperin sometimes adds counterparts for the viol, second dessus or tenor parts were added in some movements, using the published version for the harpsichord."

These differences make this disc a real alternative to what may be on the market. Overall the playing is quite good, although I don't like Héloïse Gaillard's playing of the oboe very much. She produces a rather strong sound, without much differentiation, and is a bit too dominant. However, to my taste the continuing change in the line-up is a bit too much. It leads to a lack of coherence, and I am not sure that this is what the composer intended. However, this is also very much a matter of personal taste. It is not exactly my cup of tea, but others may enjoy these versions very much. Today, we have the luxury that it is possible to listen to some tracks online, before deciding to purchase a disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Marie van Rhijn
Myriam Rignol
Tami Troman

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